Bailey named Big Ten Freshman of the Week

Following a 56-yard, one touchdown rushing performance against Miami (Ohio) on Saturday, Illinois quarterback Aaron Bailey was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week on Monday.

“That’s great, I did not know that,” Illinois head coach Tim Beckman said at his weekly news conference Monday. “He’ll be the first person I call. He’s well deserving. He’s an extremely great young man. Not just a great football player, but a great young person.”

This was Bailey’s first time winning the award. Illinois’ last freshman of the week was linebacker Mason Monheim, who won the award on Nov. 12 of last year after totaling 15 tackles in a loss to Minnesota.

Bailey has played in all four of Illinois’ games this season and has racked up a total of 76 rushing yards and three touchdowns. In his 12 rushing attempts so far this season, Bailey has rushed for three touchdowns and seven first downs.

Saturday was the first time his Illinois teammates really had a chance to see what Bailey could do in the open field. Wide receiver Steve Hull joked last week that they had never seen him run full speed because in practice he’s always wearing a red jersey and off limits for the defenders to hit.

“He’s so gifted already,” Hull said. “He’s a big kid; he runs like a horse. His ceiling is way up there. I have no idea his potential. Once he gets a handle on the playbook and starts reading defenses, I think he’ll be a huge tool for us.”

Tight ends lead the way

In the Illini’s 50-14 victory over Miami last weekend, Illinois tight ends caught four touchdown passes, one more than they had caught the previous three games combined.

Matt LaCosse pulled in two scores, Evan Wilson made a ridiculous leaping grab in the end zone and Jon Davis added another.

“It’s a blast to play when all the tight ends can have a touchdown,” LaCosse said. “Our tight ends have shown that we can play and that we’re pretty good.”

As a whole, the Illinois offense rolled against the Redhawks. Illinois did not have to punt the ball once, the first time that happened since a 59-7 win over Arkansas State in 2002.

Looking ahead

The Illini open their 2013 Big Ten season with a road trip to Nebraska this weekend, and there will likely be no lack of points.

Nebraska and Illinois rank 15th and 26th in the nation in total points, respectively. And all eyes will be on the quarterbacks, Nathan Scheelhaase for the Illini and Taylor Martinez for the Cornhuskers.

Martinez missed Nebraska’s last game against South Dakota State, but Beckman fully expects him to be back on the field this weekend.

“I think Taylor will play,” Beckman said. “I know there hasn’t been any announcement yet. Whoever’s going to be at quarterback has been around that offense and has been around (offensive coordinator) Tim Beck’s offense and has been successful doing it.”

Illinois hasn’t played Nebraska since 1986 and has played the Huskers only twice since 1953. Nebraska holds a 7-2-1 edge in the series and has won five of six games played in Lincoln, Neb.

Sean can be reached at sphammo2@dailyillini.com and @sean_hammond.